RECOMMENDATION 1162 (1991)
the Islamic civilisation
to European culture
Council of Europe has the statutory mission to safeguard and realise the
spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of its member states.
Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights enshrines the right to
freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Europe is based on humanist and religious traditions, which are the source of
its dedication to freedom and human rights, as recalled by the Assembly in
Resolution 885 (1987) on the Jewish contribution to European culture.
similar spirit, the Committee on Culture and Education held a colloquy in
Paris in May 1991 on the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to European
culture. The colloquy was organised in collaboration with the Western
Institute for Islamic Culture (Madrid) and in association with Unesco.
colloquy showed that, in addition to Christianity and Judaism, Islam in its
different forms has over the centuries had an influence on European
civilisation and everyday life, and not only in countries with a Muslim
population such as Turkey. The new Europe as well is becoming increasingly
subject to influences from Islam, not only through the regions of
predominantly Islamic culture such as Albania or some southern republics of
the USSR, but also by immigration from the wider Islamic world.
indeed be recognised that the Islamic world also embraces countries from Asia
and Africa as well as the Middle East and the Maghreb.
however, suffered and is still suffering from misrepresentation, for example
through hostile or oriental stereotypes, and there is very little awareness in
Europe either of the importance of Islam's past contribution or of Islam's
potentially positive role in European society today. Historical errors,
educational eclecticism and the over-simplified approach of the media are
responsible for this situation.
consequence of such misrepresentation, to which many contemporary Muslims have
contributed through their own lack of critical intellectual examination or
intolerance, is that Islam is too often perceived in Europe as incompatible
with the principles which are at the basis of modern European society (which
is essentially secular and democratic) and of European ethics (human rights
and freedom of expression).
incompatibility certainly does exist, as between Islamic fundamentalism and
the cultural and ethical principles which the Council of Europe upholds, for
example in regard to the treatment of women and respect for freedom of
expression, it is not representative of Islam as a whole. It must be
recognised that intolerance and distrust unfortunately exist on both sides,
Islamic and non-Islamic.
Assembly is aware of this situation, of the need for a better knowledge of the
past so as better to understand the present and prepare the future, and of the
valuable contribution that Islamic values can make to the quality of life
through a renewed European approach on an overall basis to the cultural,
economic, scientific and social fields.
attention moreover should be given to co-operation with the Islamic world. The
Council of Europe has already done a considerable amount of work on
intercultural understanding and this should be further developed with specific
reference to Islamic culture. Further co-operation should be sought with non-governmental
institutions and organisations in this field, such as the Western Institute
for Islamic Culture in Madrid, the Paris Institute for the Arab World and
Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers find room for
consideration of the Islamic world in the
intergovernmental programme of
activities of the Council of Europe
and in its recommendations
to the governments of member states. The following measures are proposed:
In the field of education
and objective account of the history of Islam should be included in education
curricula and textbooks along the lines of the international research project:
"Islam in textbooks".
should be wider provision for the teaching of Arabic as a modern language in
Scientific research on Islamic matters should be encouraged, inter alia, by increasing the number of Arabic and Islamic
professorial posts in universities. Islam should also be included in
mainstream studies, for example Islamic history should be taught in history
departments, Islamic philosophy in philosophy departments and Islamic law in
law departments, and should not be relegated, as is often the case, to
oriental language departments.
Similarly, in theology courses, a comparative approach should be encouraged,
including Islamic, Christian and Jewish studies.
integrated teaching approach should be adopted to specific areas such as the
Mediterranean basin, including studies on religion, philosophy, literature and
and teacher exchanges should be set up and developed within a framework of
university co-operation between Europe and the Islamic world, along the
lines of Recommendation 1032 (1986) on the creation of a Euro-Arab University.
This could be called the "AverroŽs
programme" in comparison with the existing "Erasmus" and
In the field of the media
production, co-production and broadcasting of radio and television programmes
on Islamic culture are to be encouraged.
In the field of culture
of cultural and intellectual expression are needed for immigrants from the
Islamic world. The development of their own culture, however, should not
entail their isolation from the society and culture of the host country.
itineraries of the Islamic world inside or outside Europe and cultural
exchanges, exhibitions, conferences and publications in the fields of art,
music and history should be encouraged. Museums have an important role to play
in this respect.
Islamic works, classic and modern, should be translated and published in a
manner more conducive to greater understanding in Western society.
Administrative questions and everyday life
Governments should encourage dialogue between Islamic communities and the
competent authorities to provide for the religious requirements of their faith
(such as holy days, prayer rules, dress and food), while respecting the
customs of the host country, in addition to the usual provisions for the
association and representation of immigrant and indigenous Islamic
twinning of towns between Europe and the Islamic world, especially those which
are geographically closer to Europe, should be encouraged.
In the field of multilateral co-operation
effort is necessary to provide a basis for a continuing dialogue between
Europe and the Islamic world with a view to the reinforcement and development
of all democratic and pluralistic tendencies. Particular attention can be
given to direct co-operation with specific parts of this world, for example
with the Arab countries around the Mediterranean (as a contribution to the
possible development of a conference on security and co-operation in the
Mediterranean) or with immigrant communities within Europe.
positive dynamic should be given to this dialogue by tackling in future
seminars key issues such as Islamic fundamentalism, the democratisation of the
Islamic world, the compatibility of different forms of Islam with modern
European society and, in general, the new problems posed by religions in
contemporary society, whether the secular societies of the West or the
traditional societies of the Third World. The problems posed by Islam should
be examined in the same perspective as those posed by Christianity, by Judaism
and by other religions in the world. Such studies will more surely help
forward the historical process of the democratisation of traditional societies
thanks to a broadening of the cultural horizons on which they are based.
Assembly also asks the Committee of Ministers to invite interested countries
of the Islamic world to take similar initiatives on a reciprocal basis and,
wherever appropriate, to accede to Council of Europe conventions and open
partial agreements, with a view to harmonising legislation and developing
Assembly debate on 19
September 1991 (11th Sitting) (see Doc. 6497, report of the Committee on
Culture and Education, Rapporteur: Mr de Puig).
Text adopted by the Assembly on
19 September 1991 (11th Sitting).